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“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”
— Robert Browning,Andrea del Sarto

There is no question that the activities of science and religion have very different aims; their boundaries are wide and goalposts divergent. For starters, science is taken to lead humanity towards a technological utopia free from human suffering and strife; a peace that can only come from scientific progress. Science, we are told, will—at the end—deliver us from natural evil, moral evil, bigotry, and intellectual mediocrity. Religion, on the other hand, has celestial goals. Its aim is to lead people to a different type of salvation, one that transcends human achievements and worldly concerns. In other words, the ultimate concern of religion is not achieved through inventions crafted by human hands, but an eternal place determined for us long before we had salvation in mind. Religion, they say, offers no knowledge about the physical world because knowledge about the world is the domain of science, not faith.

This is the narrative we have been incessantly fed, so it should be no surprise why so many people fail to notice where science and religion actually intersect. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that science and religion ought to blend in their activities, but despite their different aims, there is a closer relationship between science and religion than what we have been made to believe.  The narrative of divergent goals and impervious boundaries is nothing but a clever subterfuge intended to draw a line between the magisterium (i.e. the domain of teaching authority) of science and the magisterium of religion (Gould, 1999, p. 49). For Christians, however, the knowledge of God and His creation go hand in hand. There is not division, but unity in our pursuit for ultimate truth. Indeed, as the Psalmist proclaimed, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2, see also 8:3, 115:16).We believe that nature, and all its inner workings, is the creation of God and that science can help to capture a snapshot of God’s essence, or, as Paul put it in Romans 1:19-20, “[W]hat may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  

Sadly, many scientists see their pursuit as something entirely different. They think that the goal of science is to understand the world independent of God, and to understand nature devoid of what they consider superstitious nonsense. Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne insists that religion and science have different methods for acquiring knowledge about reality and holds that the methods of religion are basically “useless” in that endeavor (Coyne, 2015, p. 64).The late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, went as far as to say that “science makes God unnecessary” and that “[t]he laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”[1] Of course, what scientists do in their respective disciplines and what they think about the nature of reality are two very different things. Science is not invested in making claims beyond what their methods of inquiry reveal, so if it is committed to methodological naturalism (an a priori delimiting approach to scientific investigation), then science excludes any knowledge of God that may be gleaned from nature at the outset. A scientist ought to recognize their prior philosophical commitments and let the evidence speak for itself.

The importance of recognizing prior philosophical commitments is true for Christian scientists as well, especially in structuring knowledge about the world by appealing to primary vs. secondary causation.Of course, our sacred text makes claims about reality, but no religion (save materialism, perhaps) confuses a science book for Holy Writ. My point here is that people are motivated by different worldviews and there is no rule concerning religious claims that says, “faith must be devoid of evidence.” The Greek term for faith in the New Testament is actually “pistis” (πίστις), which translates well as “trust.” Just as mounting scientific evidence justifies belief in a theory; our faith is based on the incontrovertible evidence that justifies our trust in a Creator-God.

It should be no surprise then that although science seems to hold a monopoly on the truth about reality, science makes many claims that are not provable. For instance, beliefs about the reliability of our senses, the reliability of memory, the reliability of past events to predict futures ones and even our dependence on logic and mathematics cannot be subjected to the scientific method (Marcus, 2015). By contrast, persons of faith do not need to reject processes in toto.  As believers we see God working through secondary causation, which could include discontinuities in the causal structure of the world (i.e. anomalous non-mechanistic processes) that make a compelling case for Divine foresight.[2] Methodological naturalism can only work within the established framework and confines of presupposed natural mechanisms. That’s it.  The advantage of letting nature’s design yield information about what constitutes causal adequacy without metaphysical constraints is that it helps us to think out of our preconceptions and makes science a more liberating endeavor for discovery.

The materialist reads the above and has an immediate objection to my proposition. A scientist committed solely to material explanations believes that proposing divine intervention to answer questions of unknown natural phenomena commits a god-of-the-gaps fallacy. I can appreciate why a scientist (who is also a materialist) needs to cast doubt on how a person can draw scientific predictions from seemingly arbitrary causation.  Fair enough, except that the god-of-the-gaps objection isn’t valid unless one already assumes that nature operates in a nexus of inviolable laws.  Science itself, however, shows us that nature is not always predictable and often characterized by anomalous disjointed repentine processes and, consequently, the need to explain everything in mechanistic terms is merely ad hoc. Predictions, therefore, are not always a prerequisite for good science, they are useful in articulating patterns, but they are not indispensable.[3]

FIGURE 1: Thomas Young 19th century experiment demonstrating a light wave passed through two slits interacts with itself to create an interference pattern on a screen (Image courtesy Curiosity.com).

Predictions typically take the form of “if, then” statements and, thus, indicate that a particular experiment must produce certain results if a hypothesis is to be taken as true. Here is a classic example: If you drop a bowling ball and a feather simultaneously from the same height in a vacuum, then it is expected both will hit the ground at the same time. This is a very predictable pattern, however, a modern example—the so-called double-slit experiment—illustrates that scientific predictions are not always reliable. In the double-slit experiment (see Fig. 1) scientists first assumed that if we shoot a beam of light through the first two slits, then the barrage of particles (photons) would produce a pair of corresponding bands on the screen. However, that prediction proved false. What we do get from this experiment is an interference pattern of bright and dark bands, which suggest that a light beam behaves as a wave, instead of the barrage of particles. But it gets worse; the same interference pattern appears even as we fire one photon at a time!  There are several interpretations of this phenomenon of wave-particle duality, but they are all attempting to address the probabilistic nature of the quantum realm, and how the photon’s trajectory is equally probable at any location/momentum and at any given time, making predictions about the location of individual photons impossible.

 

FIGURE 2: Frequency of favorable mutations given design parameters.

Of course, Christian theists do not merely invoke God where our knowledge is incomplete, but rather, we invoke God on what we doknow about the world. To be sure, there is a sense in which agent causation does have some measure of predictability and heuristic value. As any good engineer can tell you, all design has constraints which require compromises between variables that often times result in the sacrifice of optimality. We can see then why biological forms have certain symmetries, or why certain unrelated structures are repeated throughout nature,[4] so much so that novel body plans are virtually unheard of. Understanding design constraints can also help us to make predictions about possible evolutionary pathways (see Fig. 2) or, as implied above, possible structural outcomes given certain fixed parameters in the laws of biological form(Denton, 2016, p. 14). Nevertheless, assuming mechanistic processes at every level of the physical world in a reductionist fashion halts science. It forces us into accepting theories merely to accommodate the preconceived mechanical world in the physicalist’s ontology.

But there are other reasons, outside of predictability, that mechanisms are deemed important in science. Mechanisms are manifested in the relations held between spatio-temporally located entities such that they explain what disembodied entities allegedly cannot. That is to say, causes are identified through the relations held between entities that we could observe and catalogue.   In contrast, materialists think that disembodied divine entities are completely inaccessible to investigation. They are, as it were, missing in action. They fail to meet, argues the materialist, the causal criterionthat “real” entities must satisfy in order to be useful to science (Colyvan, 1998, p. 4ff).

“The Eleatic Principle or causal criterion is a causal test that entities must pass in order to gain admission to some philosophers’ ontology. This principle justifies belief in only those entities to which causal power can be attributed, that is, to those entities which can bring about changes in the world.” — Mark Colyvan, Can the Eleatic Principle Be Justified?p. 1.

In my estimation, pointing out one aspect of physical reality, namely regularity, does not give scientists license to set the rules of investigation. If nature exhibits discontinuities, scientists cannot simply reject entities or processes that appear out of order. They must recognize that causation is, often times, not derived from direct observation but from the effects that casual relations leave behind. Moreover, current scientific approaches invoke unobservable entities all the time and some philosophers of science have even moved away from entities all together by proposing that the unobservable structure of the world is better understood in the form of “relations without relata” (Ladyman, 2007, p. 151ff).

FIGURE 3: DNA is made from three components: sugar, phosphate
and 2 base pairs. The sugar and phosphate are joined in a chain to form the sugar-phosphate backbone. The base pairs are adenine (A) and thymine (T) or cytosine (C) and guanine (G).

So, how aredisembodied entities with casual powers—like God—accessible to science? Well, as far as we can tell, there are no surprising events currently occurring around us, so we assume that all the interesting events have already come to pass; hence we reason by retroduction. We reason from past events to make an inference to the best explanation of present observations. One of my favorite examples of intelligent design is the double-helix structure of DNA (Meyer, 2009, p. 242ff). Not only does it defy every known mechanism that would explain the information embedded in the molecule along its longitudinal axis (see Fig. 3); the nucleotide base pairs that are sequenced to specify functional roles within the cell are quite literally arbitrary because the sequence does not depend on any affinity between the bases. This is astounding because the only cause known to produce this type of complex specified information is intelligent agency.

Another implication of the informational content of DNA is that it codes for building all of the machinery necessary for cell function. Ribosomes bond amino acids together in the order and shape specified by messenger RNA, and these ribosomes are made of rRNA and proteins which themselves require assembly instructions. This raises an interesting set of questions: Which came first? How did DNA come about and acquire informational properties? Did DNA encode for building ribosomes, or did ribosomes come first in the self-replicating proto RNA world? If ribosomes came first, what role did they play before acquiring the ability to translate mRNA into complex protein machines? How can ribosomes even begin to assemble amino acids into protein parts for machinery that have functional roles in the cell?[5]

Clearly, there isn’t anything particularly supernatural in what I am asking here. In fact, I contend that if God is actively involved with His creation, and I believe He is, then there really is no natural vs. supernatural dichotomy. Science continues to work as it does whether or not we believe He is involved, except that the materialist must resort to handing out promissory notes because his commitments cannot allow for a “Divine Foot in the door”of the scientific establishment, even when there is clear evidence of design (Lewontin, 1997, p. 31).[6] 

So, as it turns out, religion and science are not at odds. Scientists with differing worldviews have the same empirical and epistemic access to the world. They may arrive at different conclusions about what qualifies as a cause, or as an explanation, but if the materialist’s own ontological commitments holds him captive, then he is no longer doing science. Personally, I am persuaded that the order in the universe is a good reason to trust in a Creator-God. In a world that would otherwise select us out of existence,the Apostle Paul reminds us in Acts 17:28 (quoting the Cretan philosopher, Epimenides)“For in him we live and move and have our being.”

FOOTNOTES
 [1]Watch the complete ABC News interview here: https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/stephen-hawking-science-makes-god-unnecessary/story?id=11571150

[2]The origin of the universe breaks from quantum mechanics to classical physics; the origin of life breaks from organic chemistry; and novel organismal forms break from gradualism.

[3]One can predict the location/momentum of a photon given the probability density in measuring its distribution pattern (i.e.      according to physicist, Max Born).

[4]There numerous examples of convergent evolution from proteins, enzymes, biological pathways, and organisms that defy statistical expectations.

[5]See, for example, the assembly parts of a bacterial flagellar motor.

[6]From evolutionary biologist, Richard Lewontin: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.” 


BIBLIOGRAPHY
 Colyvan, Mark (1998). Can the Eleatic Principle Be Justified?, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 28, No. 3.  Australia: University of Tasmania, p. 4ff.

Coyne, Jerry (2015). Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible, New York: Penguin Books, p. 64.

Denton, Michael (2016). Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, p. 14.

Gould, Stephen J. (1999). Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 49.

Hawking, Stephen (2010). Science Makes God Unnecessary, ABC News interview.

(https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/stephen-hawking-science-makes-god-unnecessary/story?id=11571150).

Ladyman, James & Ross, Don (2007). Everything Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 151ff.

Lewontin, Richard C. (1997) Billions and Billions of Demons (review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31.

Marcus, Russell (2015).  The Eleatic and the Indispensabilist, Theoria: An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of ScienceVol. 30, No. 3 (September 2015), pp. 415-429.

Meyer, Stephen C. (2009). Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, New York: Harper One, p. 242ff.

Wigner, Eugene P. (1960). The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

Books by Mario A. Lopez
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Introduction

Andy Draycott is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University .In 2018, Draycott’s ETS talk,“Walking across Gender in the Spirit? The Vocation of the Church and the Transgender Christian,” resulted in a quick apology and reaffirmation of his theology of male and female [I am tracking update and responses here]. I have some important questions that remain unanswered, but as I pursue this open dialogue I wanted to revisit Draycott’s 2017 ETS presentation “Evangelical Ethics and Transgender: A Critical Exploration as it sheds some light on Draycott theology which he developed over at least two years of study.

Summary of Draycott’s 2017 Talk

Draycott begins his presentation by asserting his purpose is offer an “imaginative exorcise.” I suppose this means his paper makes no effort at biblical exegesis or theological acumen, but the exact meaning is unclear. The questions Draycott is seeking to answer are these:

  1. Can a female soul be born in a male body?”
  2. Or, can a male soul be born in a female body?
  3. And, if transgenderism is a result of the fall, then is it possible that the resurrection body given by God will align with the person’s soulish-gender rather than their birth-sex?
  4. Finally, what would need to be the case for evangelical theologians to accept the transgender identification as a reflection to the gospel?

Draycott affirms that sex is not a “mythic construct” assigned by culture. God created male and female. Given this premise, transgenderism means the change from one sexual dimorphism (male to female or female to male) to another stable mental state of identity which is better than the biological sex “ascribed” at birth. Draycott hopes to build his case relying on Mark Yarhouse’s book Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. His goal for the talk is to engage in reflection with compassion.

Standard Evangelical response

First, Draycott gives a summary of what he believes is the standard Evangelical position. The doctrine of marriage affirms male and female. Sexual embodiment and the goodness of sexual difference is affirmed even after the fall. Bodily resurrection affirms this because even Jesus’ was given a new male body after his resurrection. Thus, for the Evangelical, the goodness of sexed-embodiment is affirmed in both creation and the resurrection. Their theology assumes a unity between body and soul with the exception the intermediate state between death and resurrection where the soul awaits a new body. Based on these theological assumptions, Evangelical theologians see transgenderism as a choice of self-identity that denies the created good of sexual-embodiment and denies design of the biological states. Most important to Draycott’s theology is that Evangelicals wrongly assume that transgenderism is a rejection of the hope of restored identity in the eschaton where the body and mind are restored into a unified whole between biological-sex and soulish-gender.

Draycott’s Rebuttal to Evangelicals

In contrast to what Draycott calls, “ the rigidity of the Evangelical response,” he invokes Yarhouse’s disability framework as a way forward. Here, gender ID is not a moral failing or sin, but a result of a fallen world. The condition itself does not make a person morally culpable, but their actions may still bring moral consequence. 

If God “knows me from my womb” and if there is continuity in my self-conception of gender identity then does God “know me” as male or female? Evangelicals who hold to sexual dimorphism would say yes. This affirmation, for the Evangelical, is more important than allowing the individual the ability to self-define their concept of gender. And while it is true that hormones may influence gender ID, outside of one’s biological sex it may be that the soul has its own gender.

The problem for the Evangelical scholar, says Draycott, is that if they deny the concept of soulish-gender, then sex is reductionist—purely biological.Draycott asserts that if sexual dimorphism (male and female) is assumed as a purely biological condition then it is meaningful only in marriage for the purpose of sexual satisfaction and procreation. However, outside of marriage male and female would have no meaning for human interaction (14:21). Minimally though because of the fall, Draycott says, one should still not be in a sexual relationship outside of one’s spouse. However, if marriage is only about the physical, this reductionist-Evangelical view eliminates the spiritual aspect of sexual union and so it might be better to recognize that gender is connected to the soul.

Robert Song, who assumes the soul is gendered, uses this line of thinking to conclude that any monogamous marriage relationship is of equal value regardless of biological sex. Draycott says, “we may not want to go this far.” But, if gender does not exist, then as long as men and women satisfy the purely utilitarian function of biological sex, then other actions such as cross-dressing to satisfy the immediate emotional need of ones soulish-gender ID may be an acceptable pastoral responses to gender dysphoria (17:00). 

However, if soulish-gender is real, then Evangelicals might need to reconsider their theology. This would positively impact other male and female relationship outside of marriage. This leads to the idea that God “knows us” as both a sexed-body and gendered-soul. This translates to the eternal state of the soul which has a sexed-body. Thus the soul, after death, awaits its new resurrection body that will conform to the transgendered-person’s self-conception (19:47).

Gender expression for male and female in the NT defies cultural norms of aggression and sexual appetite. Therefore, just because transgenderism defies cultural norms, does not mean it is unbiblical. Draycott says that sexual identity can now be reinterpreted, not from the lens of creation, but from the lens of Christ’s resurrection and through the life of the church (20:53) This reinterpretation of soulish-gender ID, says Draycoot, is affirmed by Oliver O’Donovan who affirms that the new eschatological identity gives hope that gender dysphoria will be resolved through a new anthropology that supports transgenderism. 

Draycott says he is not trying to refute the Evangelical commitment the created order of sexual dimorphism. However, because of humanity’s fallenness we must allow for discordance between soulish-gender and biological-sex. Some people, assuming an Evangelical theology, will see gender dysphoria as a misalignment of the gender with the biological sex. Yarhouse’s disability paradigm shows a way forward, says Draycott, because we know our bodies do not always reflect the eschatological ideal. Sometimes society discriminates when people do not fall into biological norms. Other forms of mental disorder—such as an eating disorder—are improperly treated as an analogy to transgenderism. 

Is there an overweight soul in a thin body? Will the resurrection body satisfy this by assigning an overweight new body?

This analogy fails, says Draycott, because male and female is not a disorder, they are two equal choices. Therefore, in considering transgenderism one should not assume the soul is broken, but that the union between soul and body is broken such that it is possible that the soul has the proper conception of gender and the sexed-body reflects the fallen state (27:00).

Draycott mentions concern that his line of thinking could fall into gnosticism. Transgenderism, however, is not a denial of the goodness of the physical body. Yet, if we assume the body-soul unity and that the soul is causative, might not gender dysphoria reflect a state where the gendered-soul is suffering because of an ill-formed sexed-body (30:00)? Draycott says he wants to play the “eschatological card” to suggest that Evangelicals are missing the possibility that the resurrection may be a validation point for the transgendered-christian where the gendered-soul will be reassigned a new sexed-body by God that is different from their former biologically-sexed body.

Is it possible that intersex persons are a genuine witness of the non-non-gendered state of the resurrection where there is neither male nor female? Draycott says he does not want to take this too far and “untether” biological reality from resurrection reality. He closes by commending the line of thinking that seeks to reconcile the transgender experience with the life of the church which already acknowledges the hope that every Christian will receive a resurrection body that reconciles the identity between body and soul.

A Short Response to Draycott

I won’t spend a great deal of time in critique of either the theological or biological errors which infuse Draycott’s presentation. However, Rob Smith’s in his article, Responding to the Transgender Revolution from the Gospel Coalition opens the discussion with a solid point of agreement with Draycott:

In light of such a divide, and the social, medical, political, and legislative changes being wrought by the widespread acceptance of transgender claims, Christians have an urgent need to search the Scriptures carefully and prayerfully to see how God would have us think about and respond to such revolutionary developments. The main purpose of this essay is to begin such a search and to outline such a response. However, before we embark on this task, it will help us, firstly, to clarify a number of key terms that are a basic part of the current discussion and, secondly, to probe a little more deeply into contemporary gender theory and where it is taking us as a culture.

This is a conversation the church needs to have and I think an examination of our theology is certainly needed. In light of this shared goal, here are some additional points of agreement between Draycott and myself:

  • I would affirm with Draycott that God made humans male and female.
  • I would affirm with Draycott that the fall had an impact on sexuality.
  • I would affirm with Draycott that the fall may result in some people who suffer from gender dysphoria.
  • I would affirm with Draycott that culture has many destructive concepts of “gender” that harm both men and women in their self-identity.
  • I would affirm with Draycott that we must consider the person (body and soul) holistically. Sexuality is a both/and relationship between body and soul, not an either/or ontology.

Now it is these very points of agreement which demonstrate why the “apology” statement released after Draycott’s 2018 talk do not properly answer the questions raised through his theological speculation. Draycott’s entertainment of a dichotomy where the gendered-soul is the reflection the true identity—which may be in conflict with ones sexed-body—is not denied by any one of these affirmation, yet, his proposal deforms what the Scripture says on this issue. Here again, Smith gives an fair summary:

Otherwise put, and without wanting to minimize the reality of the psychological distress experienced by sufferers of gender incongruence, there is simply no space within biblical anthropology for the kind of ontological mismatch that is sometimes claimed. The soul is the soul of the body, as the body is the body of the soul. As David writes:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them, the days that
were formed for me when as yet there was none of them. (Ps. 139:13–16)

There is, then, no person or soul or spirit that has been created independently of the body and then placed in the body (or perhaps in the wrong body). As the Lord knit my body together in my mother’s womb, “I was made in the secret place.” The sex of the body, then, reveals the gender of the person.

Did the fall negatively effect human sexuality? Yes. However, this does not in any way open the door for Draycott’s theological-imagination about female or male souls being born into male bodies as a viable biblical theology.

Moving Forward

As this conversation moves forward, I want to affirm that the integration our theology into a pastoral context is key. This has not been done well in the past decades and many who experience gender dysphoria have been hurt by the Church. In some cases, our theology has reflected more of the culture than the Scripture. So, even if his theology of gender and understanding of biological sex is a mess, I appreciate Draycott’s passion to help those who are suffering distress. Finally, I think Smith offers some good pastoral questions that do not suffer from the theological errors made by Draycott:

  • “How do we teach and encourage those who are conflicted and confused by the social changes going on around us?
  • How do we counsel and care for those who, through no obvious fault of their own, experience a profound sense of gender incongruence?
  • How do we effectively evangelize gender non-conforming people?
  • What does repentance mean for someone who has transitioned gender?
  • What does Christian discipleship look like for someone who battles ongoing gender dysphoria?”

I hope we, as Christians, can do a proper biblical exegesis, resist the urge to conform to culture, and put together an answer these questions without falling into the trap of vain speculation which Paul warns us to avoid. If you want to follow this conversation, bookmark my post on Draycott’s 2018 ETS presentation where I will post updates.

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Who are the racists and are you one of them? The answer depends on who you ask.

Today’s neo-Marxist social-justice warrior (SJW) represents one distinct group who defines a racist as anyone who is white. All white people are racists because all white people have power. All white people are racists because all white people have privilege. Mannish Krishman asserts without qualification that, “It’s literally impossible to be racist to a white person:”

“When you’re so deeply invested in your privilege, and in this case white privilege, racial equality feels like oppression,” said Anthony Morgan, a Toronto-based civil and human rights lawyer.

Simply put, Morgan said reverse racism doesn’t exist and a person who claims otherwise is “outing themselves as someone who has little to no experience or knowledge of what racism is.”

Racism is based on a couple of things—historical, systemic oppression and power, Morgan explained. And as far as history goes, white people have never been persecuted for the colour of their skin—so there’s no point comparing their experiences to those of black, brown, and Indigenous folks. — @ManishaKrishnan

Racism is always seen through the lens of group identity, power imbalance, and victim status. Therefore, reasons the neo-Marxist, it is permissible for a person of color to hate a white person, they are justified in refusing to hire the individual white person, and a minority can even physically attack a white person if it equalizes power. The Marxist-theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics even justifies the act of killing if it results in social-justice:

If a season of violence can establish a just social system and can create the possibilities of its preservation, there is no purely ethical ground upon which violence and revolution can be ruled out…. The uncompromising equalitarian always has a moral advantage over those who propose slower methods of social change, by pointing out that these methods invariably beguile society to be satisfied with something less than the ideal and to retain many forms of ancient and traditional injustice. If a revolution can destroy social injustice and preserve equal justice, much might be forgiven it in the methods which it employs (Kindle Locations 2492-2651).

Do you see the gravity of defining racism by class? Do you see how dehumanizing it is when worth is not given to the individual person, but only to one’s racial group? Daryush Valizadeh summarizes it this way:

Using a “privilege” hierarchy, SJW’s calculate the worth of a human being based on perceived injustices or wrongs that group has suffered since the time of ancestral man, using selective and narrow interpretations of history. SJW’s elevate groups that they believe have received the least amount of “privilege” in the past, and then use internet activism in the form of mobs and community purges to target those who are determined to have greater amounts of privilege. The idea of privilege is so essential to SJW ideology that a common debate tactic they use is to say “check your privilege,” which roughly translates to, “you must immediately halt or change your speech because your ancestors may or may not have done bad things to women or minority races.” — @rooshv

For the neo-Marxist, a person has no individual worth outside their race. Therefore, the person of color is a perpetual victim who cannot be a racist—no matter how they act or how much they hate—because only white people can be racist. Here again, Valizdeh offers a helpful analysis of why the search for “justice” is really about power and not “equality”:

SJW’s make a big show of wanting “equality,” but as the Animal Farm quote goes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others….”
Since they have no objective measure or guide of equality, it is only achieved when they feel it has been achieved, but then that would destroy the very reason for their existence, meaning that their war on inequality is similar to the war on drugs or terrorism. It’s a perpetual war that will never be won in their minds because there will always be the creation of a new group needing privilege and equality. If you substitute the word “power” whenever they use “equality,” you’ll come to a more accurate descriptor of what motivates their activism. — @rooshv

In contrast to the neo-Marxist definition, a second group defines a racist as anyone who believes race determines capabilities which makes some races as superior to another. Racism for this second group is not limited to one group of people, but it is a decision to hate based on skin color and the ensuing choice to act in a way that violates the rights of another human being. Unlike the neo-Marxist, this second group believes anyone who hates based on skin color—white, black, Asian, etc…—can be a racist. This kind of racism shaped Darwinian science in the 20th century which interpret the fossil record as proof that blacks were lower on the evolutionary scale, justified human zoos in search for missing links, inspired Margret Sanger to start Planned Parenthood, and ultimately laid the groundwork for the eugenics movement in the US, Germany, and across the globe. Ryan Scott Bomberger bravely speaks out about the systemic racism enshrined in the practices of Planned Parenthood in his article, Some Black Lives Matter: Racism, Abortion, and Reproductive Injustice:

For over 100 years, it has worked hard to make black people history. It failed to do so with its original Negro Project, promoting the lie that birth control would eliminate poverty. Many leaders in the black community knew racism when they saw it. Fannie Lou Hamer knew it. The voting rights and anti-poverty activist was no fan of Planned Parenthood. #Sheresisted their propaganda. Hamer was a prolife adoptive mother who had been forcibly sterilized in 1961 in Mississippi. She understood freedom was not in a birth control pill or in the forceps of an abortionist. From her speech “America is a Sick Place and Man is on the Critical List”, she summed up her feelings about eugenics: “So we got all kinds of children, and I’ll tell you the next thing that I don’t buy, I don’t buy distributing [the] birth control pill and legalizing abortion, because they’re talking about us! If you want to abortionize somebody, do it to yourself because I’m going to try to keep the children.”
Efforts to severely reduce or eliminate births in poorer black communities was the goal of the American Eugenics movement, led by the most prominent eugenicist—Margaret Sanger. In a day and age when liberals are triggered by historical statues and what those figures represented, they’re conveniently selective in their outrage. Sanger advocated forced sterilizations, said birth control was the “process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective”, and launched the world’s most powerful population control business that practices an even more violent form of eugenics, today, than in her time. — @LifeHasPurpose

As a Christian, I believe racism is not defined by the imbalance of power or by ones minority status in society, but by the corruption of the heart which leads to individual acts of bigotry and systems of oppression based on skin color. This definition is rooted in the revelation-truth of Genesis 1–2 that all humans were created by God with immutable worth. Human dignity (the pursuit of justice and protection of individual rights), then, is grounded in the value given by God to each individual, not the value society grants to a particular group of people. Racists deny human-sacredness and are incapable of seeing people outside of their skin color. Racists are the people who choose to marginalize others and reject the validity of their opinions simple because they fit into the Marxist category of ‘privilege.” Ironically, the neo-Marxist fits the very definition of a racist because they choose to see people as nothing—literally nothing—outside of their race.

In my experience, I have been called a racist and marginalized simply because I fit the category of “white Christian male,’ In light of this superficial and dehumanizing system of categorization, I feel it necessary to share some information that might help you realize I am more than just the sum of my biological parts and cannot be defined by a social-construct. My Father-in-law is of Mexican descent. My Mother-in-Law is very proud of her Native-American heritage. Despite the stereotype that conjures up in your mind, they are both strong Trump supporters (a man I did not endorse). My wife has Hispanic roots and that makes my kids of mixed race. On my Dad’s side, I am a 3rd generation American—a descendant of immigrants to this great nation. The point is, we all have a unique history that isn’t perceived by skin color and can never be known if we refuse to look beyond the labels. Sadly, I have had far too many encounters with people who discriminate based on race:

  • In my freshman year of college, I lost 2 of my close friends when they pledged a black fraternity and were told, “all whites are evil, so you can’t be friends with any of them.”
  • Over the years I have had many conversations with minorities who told me, “all whites are the devil.”
  • Years ago, I worked as a youth pastor at a Chinese church, yet some parents didn’t want me there because of my skin color. I had a few parents tell me that if their child ever married a white person, they would disown them.
  • I’ve been told on more than one occasion that because I am a man, my opinion does not count.
  • I know that when a job posting asks for “diversity” (even at a supposedly Christian university) that is code for ‘white males need not apply.’ I also know that some folks reading this post will say that is a good thing because the only way to correct past injustice is to allow for more injustice.

Now before you tell me to “check my privilege,” my experience is not a claim to victim status. I am not comparing my story to your story. I share my experience in the hope that you will see I am not alone among those who are called racist because of their skin color, sexist because of their sex, and homophobic because of their Christian faith. Recognizing this kind of racism in the name of ending racism has helped transform activists like Keri Smith who shares some of her own journey in this article titled, On Leaving the SJW Cult and Finding Myself:

I see increasing numbers of so-called liberals cheering censorship and defending violence as a response to speech. I see seemingly reasonable people wishing death on others and laughing at escalating suicide and addiction rates of the white working class. I see liberal think pieces written in opposition to expressing empathy or civility in interactions with those with whom we disagree. I see 63 million Trump voters written off as “nazis” who are okay to target with physical violence. I see concepts like equality and justice being used as a mask for resentful, murderous rage.

The most pernicious aspect of this evolution of the left, is how it seems to be changing people, and how rapidly since the election. I have been dwelling on this Nietzsche quote for almost six months now, “He who fights with monsters, should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” How easy is it for ordinary humans to commit atrocious acts? History teaches us it’s pretty damn easy when you are blinded to your own hypocrisy. When you believe you are morally superior, when you have dehumanized those you disagree with, you can justify almost anything. In a particularly vocal part of the left, justification for dehumanizing and committing violence against those on the right has already begun. — @ksemamajama

The most relevant part of Smith’s post is her recognition that terms like “racist” are used as neo-Marxist attacks that dehumanize whole groups of people rather then as a genuine descriptions of hatred or bigotry:

I don’t yet know what to call this part of the left. Maajid Nawaz calls them the “Regressive Left.” Others call them SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) or the Alt-Left. The ideology is post-modernist cultural marxism, and it operates as a secular religion. Most are indoctrinated in liberal elite colleges, though many are being indoctrinated online these days. It has its own dogma and jargon, meant to make you feel like a good person, and used to lecture others on their ‘sin.’ “Check your privilege”- much like “mansplaining” and “gaslighting”- all at one time useful terms- have over time lost a lot of their meaning. These days I see them most frequently being abused as weaponized ad hominem attacks on a person’s immutable identity markers….a way to avoid making an argument, while simultaneously claiming an unearned moral high ground in a discussion. — @ksemamajama

None of this, of course is a denial of racism or the systemic abuse enshrined in some institutions, but it is a denial of neo-Marxism which tries to combat inequality by creating racists (SJWs who judge others based on skin color). Still, to combat racism (the hate-filled kind) I refuse to become a racist by reducing people to a category of race. I reject the use of inherently racist-Marxist tropes like “white privilege” and “whiteness” because deny human-sacredness and they foster hatred toward people based on arbitrary social constructs. Terms like “white privilege” deny each person’s unique story in favor of a Marxist-narrative of power. If I am the beneficiary of white privilege, I missed the memo. In the past decade I have lost my home to foreclosure and—since I could not afford insurance—I ended up declaring bankruptcy due to an unexpected hospitalization. But in comparison to my ‘privileged’ white immigrant ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, who didn’t have indoor plumbing, and who had to hunt wild game just to survive the winters… I recognize my life in the United States is still very privileged… but that does not diminish, or enhance, my worth given by God.

Now, just because I reject the validity of terms like “white privilege,” does not mean I deny that my race has influenced my experiences and my worldview. Has my skin color given me some advantages in life? Maybe. But sometimes (just like the proverbial fish surrounded by water who doesn’t understand wetness), I can be blind to how race has influenced my perceptions and experiences. Isaac Adams, a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, does a good job framing this discussion:

My white brother, how are you showing your congregation that Christ is superior to your skin color?

I’m asking you because ethnic minorities regularly do this when we attend churches where we’re not in the ethnic majority. I’m asking you because I regularly hear black brothers talking about how Christ is superior to our skin color. Consider what the brothers below have said:

Your Christianity must define your racial identity without denying it.
—Tony Evans @

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Introduction

In part 2, I briefly looked at the impact of a few early men who adopted a peacekeeping strategy, seeking to reconcile design and Darwin. Here, in part 3 of this series, I will analyze one of the most important strategies Darwin and his supporters used in order to discredit design. As the battle became more heated, they sought to make design implausible by casting it as perpetual miracle. In so doing, they set up a straw man that continues to be useful to modern-day Darwinists.

Deduction from a Philosophy

“You guys lost” may be a fair assessment of the intellectual battle in the 19th century. But the question is how the battle was lost. It is often said that what made Darwin unique is that he provided a genuinely scientific mechanism for evolution–that others had proposed vague or idealist causes but in natural selection Darwin provided the first genuinely empirical mechanism. Yet, since most of Darwin’s supporters did not accept his theory, that cannot be the reason for his success. I have argued that the battle was “rigged”–that Darwinism won less because it fit the empirical data than because it provided a scientific rationale for those already committed to a purely naturalistic account of life.

Both Darwin’s supporters and opponents understood that philosophical naturalism was the central issue. Among opponents, Princeton theologian Charles Hodge wrote an essay titled What Is Darwinism? He answered bluntly that Darwinism is tantamount to atheism: “Natural selection is selection made by natural laws, working without intention and design.” And “the denial of design in nature is virtually the denial of God.”31 Among supporters, Karl Vogt noted happily that Darwin’s theory “turns the Creator–and his occasional intervention in the revolutions of the earth and in the production of species–without any hesitation out of doors, inasmuch as it does not leave the smallest room for the agency of such a Being.”32 Emil de Bois-Reymond wrote: “The possibility, ever so distant, of banishing from nature its seeming purpose, and putting blind necessity everywhere in the place of final causes, appears, therefore, as one of the greatest advances in the world of thought.” To have “eased” this problem, Bois-Reymond concludes, will be “Charles Darwin’s greatest title to glory.”33 And finally, August Weismann: “We must assume natural selection to be the principle of the explanation of the metamorphoses because all other apparent principles of explanation fail us, and it is inconceivable that there should be another capable of explaining the adaptation of organisms without assuming the help of a principle of design.” Apparently only Darwinism would keep biology safe from design.34

Darwin and Design

Is it necessary, however, to drive such a sharp wedge between design and natural causes? Many if not most of the scientists in the Darwinian and post-Darwinian era sought some kind of middle ground. They gave God a directing role in evolution and asserted his constant supervision over the process. They located design not in the “contrivances” of living things (to use Paley’s word) but in the laws that created those contrivances.

Gillespie calls this position nomothetic creation (creation by law) or providential evolution, depending on how much leeway is allowed to divine initiative. This category would include men such as Asa Gray, Charles Kingsley, the Duke of Argyll, St. George Jackson Mivart, Baden Powell, Robert Chambers, Richard Owen. Despite important differences among these men, they agreed that natural laws are expressions of divine purpose, and that God or mind directs or preordains the course of evolution. John Herschel states the position clearly: “An intelligence, guided by a purpose, must be continually in action to bias the directions of the steps of change–to regulate their amount–to limit their divergence–and to continue them in a definite course. We do not believe that Mr. Darwin means to deny the necessity of such intelligent direction.”35

But Mr. Darwin did mean to deny the necessity of such intelligent direction. The design argument pointed to characteristics of living things that seemed analogous to the products of an intelligent mind, with its capacity for forethought, purpose, and design. The challenge Darwin took on was to identify completely natural processes capable of mimicking the products of a mind. Gillespie describes Darwin’s goal in these words:

It has been generally agreed (then [in Darwin’s day] and since) that Darwin’s doctrine of natural selection effectively demolished William Paley’s classical design argument for the existence of God. By showing how blind and gradual adaptation could counterfeit the apparently purposeful design that Paley . . . and others had seen in the contrivances of nature, Darwin deprived their argument of the analogical inference that the evident purpose to be seen in the contrivances by which means and ends were related in nature was necessarily a function of mind. 36

Put simply, Darwin proposed to show that purposeless nature could “counterfeit purpose.”

Hence he emphatically rejected any attempt to sneak purpose in by the back door, so to speak. Consider his response to Asa Gray, who wedded Darwinian theory to fairly conservative Christian theology. Gray denied that variation, the raw material of natural selection, was random; instead he opted for a teleological view of evolution. In fact, Gray fancied that he comprehended the implications of Darwin’s theory better than Darwin himself. In a letter written in 1863, he confessed to a bit of cunning: “Under my hearty congratulations of Darwin for his striking contributions to teleology, there is a vein of petite malice, from my knowing well that he rejects the idea of design, while all the while he is bringing out the neatest illustrations of it.”37

But Darwin’s response to Gray’s notion of divine direction was unequivocal: In a letter to Lyell he wrote, “If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish.” Two years later he wrote again to Lyell: “The view that each variation has been providentially arranged seems to me to make Natural Selection entirely superfluous, and indeed takes the whole case of the appearance of new species out of the range of science.” To say that variations are divinely ordained adds nothing scientifically, Darwin went on: It “seems to me mere verbiage.” He summed up his view by charging that “Gray’s notion [of guided variations] seems to me to smash the whole affair.”38

Notice that Darwin’s objections to providential evolution are twofold. First, it makes natural selection “superfluous,” “rubbish,” “mere verbiage.

Natural selection was intended to replace design; hence, the presence of both is redundant. As Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “The old argument from design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. . . . There seems to be now more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.”39

The effort to superimpose divine direction onto a completely naturalistic process Young labels “theistic naturalism,” an oxymoron that has resurfaced in recent debates.

Second, Darwin objected that adding divine purpose to evolution takes the discussion “out of the range of science.” The implication is that science cannot countenance intelligent causation in any form. In Darwin’s mind, divinely ordained evolution was no different in principle from direct creation. Both were inadmissible in science. As Hull notes, “Darwin insisted on telling a totally consistent naturalistic story or none at all.”40

Those who reformulated Darwin to accommodate design were hoping to prevent the takeover of the idea of evolution by philosophical naturalism. They sought to extract the scientific theory from the philosophy in which it was embedded. But the two proved inseparable and, ironically, the effect of their effort was precisely the opposite of what they had hoped: It sped the acceptance of philosophical naturalism. As Hull writes, “The architects of the demise of teleology were not atheistic materialists but pious men . . . who thought they were doing religion a good service” in restricting God to working through natural laws. “What these men did not realize was that by pushing God further and further into the background as the unknowable author of natural law, . . . they had prepared the way for his total expulsion.”41

Gillespie tells the same story: The restructuring of the design argument to adapt to evolution, he writes, was an important “step in the secularization of science and its eventual intellectual separation from theology.” The idea of designed or directed evolution “eased a generation of often reluctant scientists into a ‘naturalistic’ and ultimately positivistic world view.” In this naturalistic world view, God had no significant function and divine action was not required for a true understanding of the world. As a result, religious belief became “private, subjective, and artificial”; God “was, at best, a gratuitous philosophical concept derived from a personal need.”42

Once God had been reduced to a “gratuitous philosophical concept” based on personal need, Darwin and his cohorts could afford to be tolerant toward religious believers. In the mid-1870s, Young writes, there are signs of the “benevolent tolerance of the victors.”43 Religious believers could be treated gently so long as they agreed that God did absolutely nothing in the natural world studied by science. As Gillespie explains, the strategy of relocating design from contrivances to laws “gave the game to the positivist.” It removed from the idea of design “any identifiable sign of divine action”–stripped it of any empirical content.44 And toward those who clung to such a tame and vacuous concept of design, even the most aggressive Darwinist could afford to be indulgent.

“Every Trifling Detail”

Another important facet of the nineteenth-century debate is the strategy employed to discredit design, and to redefine science in strictly naturalistic terms. As the debate intensified, Darwin and his allies increasingly identified creation with perpetual miracle. Historically, Paley and other proponents of design had insisted on the reality of both primary and secondary causality at work in the world. But the Darwinians ignored that history. Instead, they presented design as the denial of all secondary causes. They portrayed a designed world as a world at the mercy of divine caprice and arbitrary whim.

For example, in the Origin Darwin describes his opponents as holding that each variety of finch on the Galapagos Islands sprang full-blown from the Creator’s hand. Moreover, he also describes his opponents as holding that the islands’ unusual flora and fauna were “created in the Galapagos Archipelago, and nowhere else.”45 Design was presented as the belief that God had created each minor variety in its present location–giraffes in Africa, tigers in Asia, and buffalo in America. Darwin referred to this as the theory of “multiple centres of creation,” and in the Origin he demolished it.

Interestingly, Darwin concedes that, at the time, the idea of creation in situ rested on empirical, not theological, grounds.46 For example, it appeared to be the only explanation for the existence of the same species on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Surely no organism was capable of migrating across thousands of miles of salt water. Be that as it may, Darwin focused his argument on places such as the Galapagos Archipelago, where evidence for migration was strong. Was it really plausible that each variety of finch and tortoise had been specially created for each of the tiny islands, some of which were, in Darwin’s words, hardly more than “points of rock”? For myself, he stated, “I disbelieve in . . . innumerable acts of creation.”47

Much of the Origin is taken up with arguments for variability and migration. The idea of separate creations would be more plausible, Darwin noted in his journal, if each island had a completely unique set of plants and animals. But since many of the organisms are variations on a common theme, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that they descended from a single set of ancestral species that originally migrated to the islands. This and other patterns of geographical distribution, Darwin insists, are “utterly inexplicable on the ordinary view of the independent creation of each species.” He warns that anyone who rejects the idea of migration, “rejects the vera causa of ordinary generation with subsequent migration, and calls in the agency of a miracle.”48

What do we say to all this? The views Darwin attributes to proponents of design are so foreign today that we have to read our history books to learn about them. No design theorist today denies the reality of variation or migration. The consensus among even the strictest biblical creationists is that the Galapagos finches were not separately created but represent variations within a single species. For example, James Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible dismisses them as “only minor adaptation within types, as would be expected in any design of creation.”49 Wayne Frair and Percival Davis in A Case for Creation note that the finches “may serve as an example of diversification” but “not evolution in the usual sense, because the changes were relatively minor.”50 Walter Lammerts, who made detailed measurements of a large collection of Darwin’s finches, notes that they exhibit complete intergradation of bill and body size. He concludes that the birds constitute a single species, “broken up into various island forms as a result of chance arrangement of their original variability potential.”51

Clearly, design does not require the rejection of either variability or migration. In fact, historians have been hard put to explain why Darwin was so preoccupied with a position that, already in his own day, naturalists had all but abandoned. Some historians attribute it to Darwin’s ignorance of the current state of the debate; others think he was setting up a straw man. I suggest he was framing a false choice between perpetual miracle and completely closed naturalistic world. His argument ran like this: Either invoke direct divine action to explain every phenomenon in biology (“call in the agency of a miracle”), or else admit that every phenomenon can be explained by natural processes of “ordinary generation.”

Darwin urged this false choice again and again. In The Descent of Man he acknowledged that “our minds refuse to accept” an explanation of the universe based on the idea of “blind chance.” Yet the alternative, he went on, is to believe that “every slight variation of structure,–the union of each pair in marriage,–the dissemination of each seed,–and other such events, have all been ordained for some special purpose.”52 Darwin wrote to Sir John Herschel: “One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed; yet when I look to each individual organism, I can see no evidence of this. For, I am not prepared to admit that God designed the feathers in the tail of the rock-pigeon to vary in a highly peculiar manner in order that man might select such variations & make a Fan-tail.”53

In pressing the point, Darwin could not resist ridicule. In a book on the fertilization of orchids, he described design proponents as those who view “every trifling detail of structure as the result of the direct interposition of the Creator.”54

In a letter to Asa Gray he wrote: “I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.” He confessed that he could not believe pigeon tail feathers were led to vary “in order to gratify the caprice of a few men.”55 He asked Lyell: Could he really think that the deity had intervened to cause variations in domestic pigeons “solely to please man’s silly fancies”?56

The argument became downright silly when Darwin challenged his friends to say whether God had designed his nose. He wrote to Lyell asking whether he believed that the shape of his nose “was ordained and ‘guided by an intelligent cause’.”57 In a similar vein, he asked Gray: “Do you believe that when a swallow snaps up a gnat that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular instant?”58

In these almost facetious comments Darwin was ignoring centuries of debate among Christians over the balance between God’s direct activity and the action of created causes. As Anglican theologian E.L. Mascall writes, “The main tradition of classical Christian philosophy, while it insisted upon the universal primary causality of God in all the events of the world’s history, maintained with equal emphasis the reality and the authenticity of secondary causes.”59 Scottish theologian Thomas Torrance sums up this balanced view by speaking of the “contingent order” of creation. “Contingency” refers to the fact that the creation is not autonomous. It is not self-originating or self-sustaining; it was created by God and depends continually upon His power. On the other hand, “order” refers to the fact that God does not work in the world by perpetual miracle. He has set up a network of secondary causes that act in regular and consistent patterns.60 As Christopher Kaiser points out in his book Creation and the History of Science, attempts to conceptualize this balance have carried on since the time of the church fathers–notably by Basil of Caesarea in the fourth century.61 Darwin ignored this rich history and slashed the Gordian knot by insisting that one must choose either God or nature. Give any quarter to divine activity, he implied, and the entire world becomes an arena of perpetual and arbitrary miracle. On the other hand, allow that minor variation and diversification can be accounted for by natural processes, and one must place all the world and all life solely under the domain of natural law.

This false dichotomy continues to be useful to Darwinists today. Admit that natural processes account for the diversification of finch beaks or peppered moths or fruit flies, we are told, and one is logically committed to admitting that the same processes are adequate to create birds and fruit flies in the first place. Only recently has this strategy begun to wear thin, with biologists recognizing that minor variation is not the means of producing major innovations. Simply put, micro-evolution is not the mechanism for macro-evolution. Yet examples of micro-evolution continue to be exhibited as the prime factual evidence supporting naturalistic theories of evolution.

In part 4 of this series, I will conclude with by analyzing one of the most important strategies Darwin and his supporters used in order to discredit design.I suggest that the success of Darwin and his cohorts in the nineteenth century had much to do with their political expertise. They understood clearly that the battle is not only about ideas but also about institutions and power.

References

[31] Charles Hodge, What Is Darwinism? And Other Writings on Science and Religion ed. and intro. Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), pp. 85, 155.

[32] Cited in Hodge, p. 110.

[33] Emil du Bois-Reymond, “Darwin versus Galiani,” cited in John Theodore Merz, A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Dover Publications, 1904), Vol. I, p. 435n.

[34] Cited in Arnold Lunn, The Flight From Reason (New York: The Dial Press, 1931), p. 101.

[35] John Herschel, Physical Geography of the Globe (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1867), p. 12n.

[36] Gillespie, pp. 83-85.

[37] Jane Loring Gray, ed., Letters of Asa Gray (New York: Burt Franklin, 1973), Vol. 2, p. 498.

[38] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, 28, and More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, pp. 191-192.

[39] Nora Barlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809- 1882 with Original Omissions Restored (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1958), p. 87.

[40] Hull, p. 54.

[41] Hull, pp. 63, 65.

[42] Gillespie, pp. 119-120, 16.

[43] Young, pp. 110-112.

[44] Gillespie, p. 149.

[45] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, a facsimile of the first edition, intro. Ernst Mayr (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 398 (see also pp. 352, 365).

[46] Origin, pp. 365-366.

[47] More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, p. 173.

[48] Origin, pp. 355, 406, 352.

[49] James F. Coppedge, Evolution: Possible or Impossible? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), p. 87.

[50] Wayne Frair and Percival Davis, A Case for Creation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), p. 72.

[51] Walter Lammerts, “The Galapagos Island Finches,” in Why Not Creation?, ed. Walter Lammerts (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 361.

[52] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, second ed. (New York: D. Appleton, 1896), p. 613.

[53] Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, ed. Sir Gavin de Beer, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1959, p. 35.

[54] Charles Darwin, On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilized by Insects and on the Good Effects of Inter-crossing (London: John Murray, 1862), p. 2.

[55] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, p. 146.

[56] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, p. 97.

[57] More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, pp. 193-194.

[58] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I p. 284.

[59] E.L. Mascall, Christian Theology and Natural Science (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 198.

[60] Thomas F. Torrance, “Divine and Contingent Order,” in The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, ed. A.R. Peacocke (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981). Christopher Kaiser uses the phrase “relative autonomy” to mean the same thing. See Creation and the History of Science (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 15, 131.

[61] Kaiser, pp...

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Introduction

In part 1, I addressed the question of why Darwin become the focal point of debate in the nineteenth century, even for many who did not accept his theory. In part 2 of this series, I will examine the writings of Darwin’s core supporters in the nineteenth century.

Charles Darwin

The interpretation outlined in part 1 that both the primary motivation for supporting Darwin and the principle effect of his work was not so much scientific as philosophical is borne out by examining the writings of key nineteenth-century Darwinians–beginning with Darwin himself. The typical account, certainly in popular works, portrays Darwin as a man forced to the theory of natural selection by the weight of the facts. But professional historians tell a different story. Long before formulating his theory, Darwin nurtured a sympathy for philosophical naturalism. He was therefore predisposed toward a naturalistic theory of evolution even when the evidence itself was weak or inconclusive.

In a personal letter, Darwin describes his gradual loss of religious belief and slide into naturalism. By the late 1830s, he writes, he had come to consider the idea of divine revelation in the Old Testament “utterly incredible.” He had also rejected the biblical concept of miracles: In his words, “The more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become.” This commitment to “the fixed laws of nature” preceded Darwin’s major scientific work, and made it virtually inevitable that he would interpret the evidence through a naturalistic lens.

Gillespie notes the same progression. Once Darwin had decided, in the late 1830s, that “creationist explanations in science were useless,” Gillespie writes, then “transmutation was left as virtually the only conceivable means of species succession.” When Darwin began to consider the origin of species, “he did so as an evolutionist because he had first become a positivist, and only later did he find the theory to validate his conviction.”7

Even when he found the theory, Darwin was quite aware that it could not be confirmed directly. Modern Darwinians often imply that the theory is so clearly supported by the facts that anyone who fails to concur must be intellectually dishonest or deranged. But Darwin was not so dogmatic. He described his theory as an inference grounded chiefly on analogy. And he praised the author of one review for seeing “that the change of species cannot be directly proved and that the doctrine must sink or swim according as it groups and explains phenomena.”8 In an 1863 letter, he amplified by pointing out that evolution by natural selection was “grounded entirely on general considerations” such as the difference between contemporary organisms and fossil organisms. “When we descend to details,” he wrote, “we can prove that no one species has changed [i.e., we cannot prove that a single species has changed]; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why some species have changed and others have not.”9 In other words, Darwin was quite aware that the scientific evidence was short of compelling.

Hence the key to Darwin’s own thinking is his philosophical commitment. Consider his stance on the origin of life. In the last sentence of the Origin of SpeciesDarwin resorted to Pentateuchal language, speaking of life, “with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one.” (In a later edition he added, “by the Creator.”) But over time Darwin drifted toward a more consistently naturalistic position, provisionally accepting the spontaneous generation of life from inorganic material despite a striking absence of evidence for the theory at the time. In a 1882 letter, he wrote: “Though no evidence worth anything has as yet, in my opinion, been advanced in favour of a living being, being developed from inorganic matter, yet I cannot avoid believing the possibility of this will be proved some day in accordance with the law of continuity.” Here is the naturalist’s faith: Darwin is confident that a naturalistic theory will be found, not because the facts point in that direction but because he believes in the “continuity” of natural causes.10

This belief achieved almost religious status for Darwin. Years later William Darwin was to describe his father’s attitude toward nature in near-devotional terms: “As regards his respect for the laws of Nature,” William wrote of his father, “it might be called reverence if not a religious feeling. No man could feel more intensely the vastness and the inviolability of the laws of nature.”11 Darwin’s intellectual journey seems to illustrate the adage that if one rejects a Creator, inevitably one puts something else in its place. In Darwin’s case, he assigned god-like powers to the laws of nature.

To the end of his life, Darwin struggled with a residual belief in theism, so there is some question whether he held strictly to metaphysical naturalism. But there is no question that at least he held to methodological naturalism in science. He did not argue that design was a weak theory, nor even a false theory; he argued that it was not a scientific theory at all. In 1856 he wrote to Asa Gray: “to my mind to say that species were created so and so is no scientific explanation, only a reverent way of saying it is so and so.”12 As philosopher of biology David Hull writes, Darwin dismissed special creation “not because it was an incorrect scientific explanation but because it was not a proper scientific explanation at all.”13

On the other hand, when Darwin’s own ideas were attacked, he defended them by arguing that at least his proposed theory was naturalistic–which begged the very question that lay at the heart of the controversy. As Young writes, “Whenever [Darwin] was really in trouble . . . he appealed to the very principle which was at issue, the uniformity of nature.” Darwin’s contemporaries understood his strategy precisely. As John Tyndall said in his ‘Belfast Address’ in 1874: “‘The strength of the doctrine of Evolution consists, not in an experimental demonstration (for the subject is hardly accessible to this mode of proof), but in its general harmony with scientific thought.'”14 The underlying assumption is that genuinely “scientific thought” must be naturalistic. And once that assumption is granted, some form of naturalistic evolution will win the day by default.

Herbert Spencer

In his autobiography, Herbert Spencer recounts in excruciating detail the process by which he developed a naturalistic outlook, beginning when he was a boy. Over time, he writes, “a breach in the course of [physical] causation had come to be, if not an impossible thought, yet a thought never entertained.”15 As in Darwin’s case, members of Spencer’s family described his adherence to naturalism in near-religious terms. His father drew a parallel between the son’s naturalism and the father’s own religion: “From what I see of my son’s mind, it appears to me that the laws of nature are to him what revealed religion is to us, and that any wilful infraction of those laws is to him as much a sin as to us is disbelief in what is revealed.”16

This semi-religious attachment to naturalism explains why Spencer eventually became a tireless promoter of Darwinism. It was not because he was persuaded by Darwin’s scientific theory; indeed, he rejected Darwinism and embraced Lamarckianism. Yet Spencer saw clearly that once he had embraced philosophical naturalism, he had no alternative but to accept some form of naturalistic evolution. As he puts it, having discarded orthodox Christianity, he developed an “intellectual leaning towards belief in natural causation everywhere operating.” And in that naturalistic leaning, “doubtless . . . a belief in evolution at large was then latent.” Why latent? Because “anyone who, abandoning the supernaturalism of theology, accepts in full the naturalism of science, tacitly asserts that all things as they now exist have been evolved.” In short, Spencer accepted naturalism first, and then accepted evolution as a logical consequence. He goes on: “The doctrine of the universality of natural causation, has for its inevitable corollary the doctrine that the Universe and all things in it have reached their present forms through successive stages physically necessitated.”17 Just so: Once one accepts the philosophy of naturalism, some form of naturalistic evolution is an “inevitable corollary.” Finding a plausible scientific theory is secondary.

In Spencer’s writings we get a glimpse of the intellectual pressure that impelled him toward a naturalistic view of evolution. “I cheerfully acknowledge,” he writes in The Principles of Psychology, that the hypothesis of evolution is beset by “serious difficulties” scientifically. Yet, “save for those who still adhere to the Hebrew myth, or to the doctrine of special creations derived from it, there is no alternative but this hypothesis or no hypothesis.” And no one can long remain in “the neutral state of having no hypothesis.”18

Similarly, in an 1899 letter, he writes that already decades earlier, “in 1852 the belief in organic evolution had taken deep root”–not for scientific reasons but because of “the necessity of accepting the hypothesis of Evolution when the hypothesis of Special Creation has been rejected.” He concludes with these telling words: “The Special Creation belief had dropped out of my mind many years before, and I could not remain in a suspended state: acceptance of the only conceivable alternative was peremptory.”19 Here is a candid admission that Spencer was driven by a sense of philosophical necessity–naturalistic evolution was “the only conceivable alternative” to creation–more than by a dispassionate assessment of the scientific evidence.

Thomas H. Huxley

Thomas Huxley christened himself Darwin’s and offered his natural “combativeness,” as he put it, in service to the cause. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Huxley was never convinced that Darwin’s theory of natural selection amounted to much scientifically. Huxley argued that the effectiveness of the mechanism would not be proved until a new species had been produced by artificial selection. By the 1879s he was even speculating on the existence of a “law of variation” that would somehow direct evolution, an idea he favored over Darwin’s concept of random variations.

What, then, gave Huxley his bulldog determination to fight for Darwin? The answer is, once again, largely philosophical. Before his encounter with Darwin, Huxley writes, “I had long done with the Pentateuchal cosmogony.” He had also surveyed early forms of evolutionary theory, but found them all unsatisfactory. And yet, he writes, he continued to nurse a “pious conviction that Evolution, after all, would turn out true.”20

When Darwin published the Origin, Huxley welcomed it as a vindication of that “pious conviction.” As his son Leonard Huxley writes, “Under the suggestive power of the Origin of Species,” his father experienced “the philosophic unity he had so long been seeking.”21 Huxley himself recalls that the Origin “did the immense service of freeing us for ever from the dilemma–Refuse to accept the creation hypothesis, and what have you to propose that can be accepted by any cautious reasoner?”22 Apparently Huxley, like Spencer, was so eager to be freed from that dilemma that he was willing to champion any naturalistic theory, even one he himself found scientifically implausible, so long as it provided an alternative to creation.

Consider Huxley’s response to spontaneous generation. His son notes that “there was no evidence that anything of the sort had occurred recently.” (Louis Pasteur had discredited all currently held theories of spontaneous generation.) Nevertheless, his father persisted in believing that “at some remote period, life had arisen out of inanimate matter”–not because of any scientific evidence but as “an act of philosophic faith.”23

Huxley was especially sensitive to pressures to bring biology under the naturalistic framework that had become dominant in other fields of science. Geology had recently been placed on a new philosophical footing by Charles Lyell, and Huxley writes that it was Lyell’s Principles of Geology that persuaded him that new life forms must be generated by “ordinary agencies” at work today (by which he meant natural agencies). In his words, “consistent uniformitarianism postulates Evolution as much in the organic as in the inorganic world.”24 In 1859 he wrote to Lyell: “I by no means suppose that the transmutation hypothesis is proven or anything like it. But . . . . I would very strongly urge upon you that it is the logical development of Uniformitarianism, and that its adoption would harmonize the spirit of Paleontology with that of Physical Geology.”25 That spirit, of course, was a consistent and relentless naturalism. As Huxley wrote elsewhere, the “whole theory crumbles to pieces” if one denies “the uniformity and regularity of natural causation for illimitable past ages.”26

Huxley was what Bowler terms a “pseudo-Darwinian”: someone who rallied to Darwin for philosophical reasons even while remaining unconvinced of his scientific theory. In Bowler’s words, Huxley was “guaranteed” to support Darwinism because of his “empiricist philosophy.”27 Or, as Gillespie puts it, he “leaned toward transmutation from intellectual necessity.”28 Huxley expresses his philosophical credo eloquently in Man’s Place in Nature (1864): “Even leaving Mr. Darwin’s views aside, the whole analogy of natural operations furnish so complete and crushing an argument against the intervention of any but what are called secondary causes, in the production of all the phenomena of the universe; that . . . I can see no reason for doubting that all are coordinate in terms of nature’s great progression, from formless to formed, from the inorganic to the organic, from blind force to conscious intellect and will.”29 As he put it more simply in a 1859 speech, if the world is governed by uniformly operating laws, then the successive populations of beings “must have proceeded from one another in the way of progressive modification.”30 In other words, if you accept philosophical naturalism, then something very much like Darwinism must be true a priori. This explains why Huxley was willing to do battle for Darwin, without being overly concerned about the scientific details.

In part 3 of this series, I will analyze one of the most important strategies Darwin and his supporters used in order to discredit design. As the battle became more heated, they sought to make design implausible by casting it as perpetual miracle. In so doing, they set up a straw man that continues to be useful to modern-day Darwinists.

References

[7] Gillespie, p. 46.

[8] Francis Darwin, ed., Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1899), Vol. II, p. 155.

[9] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II, p. 210.

[10] Francis Darwin, ed., More Letters of Charles Darwin (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1903), Vol. II, p. 171.

[11] Cited in John Durant, “Darwinism and Divinity: A Century of Debate,” in Darwinism and Divinity: Essays on Evolution and Religious Belief, ed. John Durant (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 18.

[12] Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, p. 437.

[13] David L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 26.

[14] Young, p. 98.

[15] Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1904), Vol I, p. 172.

[16] Spencer, An Autobiography, Vol. I, p. 655.

[17] Spencer, An Autobiography, Vol. II, p. 7.

[18] Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1896), Vol. I, p. 466n.

[19] David Duncan, Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), Vol. II, p. 319.

[20] Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (New York: Macmillan, 1903), Vol. I, pp. 241, 243.

[21] Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. II, p. 1.

[22] Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. I, p. 246.

[23] Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. II, p. 16.

[24] Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. I, p. 243.

[25] Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. I, p. 252.

[26] Thomas Henry Huxley in Francis Darwin, ed., Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I, p. 553.

[27] Bowler, pp. 70, 72.

[28] Gillespie, p. 33.

[29] Thomas Henry Huxley, Man’s Place in Nature (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1896), p. 151.

[30] Thomas Henry Huxley, “Science and Religion,” The Builder, 1859, Vol. 17, p. 35 (emphasis in original).

In This Series
  1. Part 1:Non-Darwinian Darwinians
  2. Part 2: Darwin's Supporters
  3. Part 3: Darwin vs. Design (coming Nov. 26)
  4. Part 4 Darwin's Politics of Science (coming Dec. 3)

 

 

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